24. May 2024

The Masaryk University Dies Academicus is a festive event that brings together members of the academic community, staff and students. This year, it took place on 23 May and, as usual, it was an opportunity to recognise outstanding achievements of scientists and highlight their contributions. The MUNI Rector's Award for outstanding creative achievement was awarded to the team consisting of Dalibor Blažek, Pavla Gajdůšková and Milan Hluchý, and the Rector's Award for outstanding research achievements for young scientists under 40 years of age went to neuroscientist Klára Marečková. Silver medals were awarded to Jiří Nantl and Tomáš Hruda for their role in building and developing the CEITEC Research Institute.

Dalibor Blažek, Pavla Gajdůšková and Milan Hluchý: Rector of Masaryk University Award for Distinguished Creative Achievement

Rector Bareš awarded the work of Dalibor Blažek's team that studied cyclin-dependent kinase 11 (CDK11) and found that it plays a key role in RNA splicing, a process that regulates which parts of genetic information are used in the cell. Until then, it was unclear how exactly CDK11 works, but the team discovered that the molecule OTS964 can specifically inhibit CDK11 and slow or stop cell growth and proliferation, which in the context of cancer may provide important information for the development of new anti-cancer therapies. In fact, this research has shown that OTS964 targets only CDK11 (one of 20 enzymes of this type), which is rare because most inhibitors affect multiple proteins. This discovery opens up new possibilities for the development of therapeutics, as the precise regulation of CDK11 could be used in therapy, especially in the fight against cancer. The team also showed that manipulating CDK11 can have a significant effect on gene expression, providing new directions for future research.

The discovery, by which they described the cellular function of cyclin-dependent kinase 11 and characterized its inhibitor, was published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. More information about the scientific research of Dalibor Blažek's team here.

Klára Marečková: Rector of Masaryk University Award for Outstanding Research Results for Young Scientists under 40

Klára Marečková, who is working on healthy brain ageing and its prenatal programming, has achieved exceptional research results for which she received the Rector of Masaryk University Award. In particular, her latest research shows that maternal stress and depression can negatively affect fetal development and increase the risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. These influences have been found to lead to so-called accelerated biological ageing, which can cause, for example, earlier onset of puberty in girls or anxiety in early adulthood. Klára Marečková has been awarded a prestigious JUNIOR STAR grant from the Czech Grant Agency for this research, which will allow her to investigate in more detail how the prenatal environment influences brain development and child behaviour. Her work brings new possibilities for targeted therapies and personalized medicine for future generations.

Klára Marečková's research results have been published in top journals and have earned her invitations to lecture at renowned institutions such as Harvard Medical School, University of Toronto and University of Ottawa, with whom she has established international research collaborations.

More information about Klára Marečková's scientific research is available here.

Jiří Nantl, Silver Medal

The award did not go only to scientists, the Rector Bareš also awarded Jiří Nantl with a Silver Medal for his work as director of CEITEC MUNI. Under his leadership, the institute has established itself as a renowned research centre in Europe, focusing on the field of life sciences. At CEITEC, Nantl made a significant contribution to the development of international cooperation and the improvement of the quality of scientific projects, which led to an increase in publications in prestigious journals. During Nantl's tenure, CETIEC MUNI received several major grants and awards, including projects funded by the European Union. Jiří Nantl supported young scientists and initiated programmes for their development, which attracted experts from all over the world. Thanks to his approach and implementation of good practices from abroad CEITEC became an attractive place for research and innovation. In 2018, CETIEC was awarded as one of the most important research centres in the Czech Republic. Nantl was also involved in the modernisation of the infrastructure, which enabled the expansion of research capacities. Nantl's leadership has produced excellent results and strengthened the Czech Republic's position in the field of international research.

Tomáš Hruda, Silver Medal

The Rector also presented a Silver Medal to Tomáš Hruda, who played a key role in building the CEITEC Research Institute in 2009–2012. Under his leadership, a strategic plan was developed and implemented, which ensured the financing and construction of modern research facilities. Hruda coordinated collaboration between academic and industrial partners, ensuring an interdisciplinary approach to research, and his efforts led to major grants from the European Union that supported the development of CEITEC's infrastructure. His visionary approach contributed to CEITEC becoming one of the leading research centres in the Czech Republic and Europe, and the first to combine life sciences and advanced materials research on such a large scale.